But they were too big. Also, it was closed. I am being absolutely truthful here – last week I was so completely overwhelmed by the constant complaining about our new home (“Mommy we live in a poor person’s house”) and crying about how they missed climbing trees, instead of gratitude for the fact that our windows look out onto the Pacific Ocean, that I snapped.
I told them perhaps I should take them down to Skid Row to see people who don’t have homes, who are forced to live in cardboard boxes… “I’d wather live in a cawdboawd box,” declares the younger one dramatically. I laugh in spite of myself.
“How come you keep it together at school, and after school, but as soon as you see me, you go crazy?” I ask them yet again, as they cry loudly in the back seat.
“Mommy, do you know what would happen if we did this at school?” earnestly replies one, tears suspended on his cheeks.
“Yeah mommy, it would totally suck turds,” adds the eight year old at which point my car seems to drive itself onto the firehouse grounds.
This is an emergency, I am having an emergency, is all I can think as I veer in. They want drama, I can do drama.
The fire station is on the other side of the road, just past our house, and as I decide to swallow my pride as I had already had some fairly humiliating contact with them, I careened into the long driveway intending… What? I’m not sure. To ask for help? To surrender myself to the authorities? To have guys in uniform scare the living shit out of my kids? I wasn’t thinking clearly as I could not comprehend how once again when I came to pick up the kids from after school care, they morphed in an instant from charming, carefree and lovable bubble enthusiasts to writhing, Satanic predictors of doom.
“Mommy what are you doing?” ask the kids, clearly traumatized for life, if they weren’t already.
“I need help,” I say and abandon them in the car and sit on the stoop.
“I’m sorry,” they wail, and jump out to coax me back inside the Prius that had briefly become a torture device. “Sowwy we made you cwy.”
It’s bad parenting. I know that. I am deeply ashamed, but fuck it I have always been ashamed and I’m totally sick of it. I’m a human being and no one should be allowed to speak to me that way, even if they are my two favorite people on earth. This isn’t some shitty teenage relationship with drug addicts, I’m over being treated badly. I. Was. Desperate.
We go home. The night does not end well. It is the end, and they know it. They have found my limits, and now they will have to retreat.
The next morning Wonder Dad and I present a united front. No more screens. No TV – nothing. We let them know that this is their last chance to listen to the new rules in the new house and if they don’t we will send them to discipline camp.
“I found one online that takes kids your age and it’s in Florida,” I say meanly.
Their eyes widen in horror- “I don’t want to go to Fwowida.”
The tears begin afresh but our hearts are stone. We need peace. There has to be a battle and we must subdue the enemy.
Over the next three days, we break them, like horses. One morning I have a slightly sore throat, so I barely even talk. I will not yell anymore. I will speak low so they have to be quiet to hear me. When one won’t do his homework, I simply let him go to school without it. What am I going to do- go sit his SAT’s for him one day? He has to learn. They have to learn.
The safe haven law is intended for parents of babies under thirty days to anonymously surrender their children if they genuinely can’t cope. Even if they raised the age to eight, I could never leave them there and drive away. At least not now… For the past three days their behavior has been exemplary.